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The Animal Behavioral Core offers PIs at Cincinnati Children’s and collaborators at other research institutions access to a wide range of behavioral and nonbehavioral assays. The procedures are available for mice or rats, with test apparatus scaled accordingly. Many of our measurement protocols incorporate video tracking and photocell technology, and we use SAS programs to analyze and present the captured data.
The following tabs describe the assays we offer. For more information, or to arrange a collaboration with the Animal Behavioral Core, contact us at 513-636-8622.
The Acoustic (ASR) and Tactile Startle Response (TSR) are well-established tests for evaluating the complex brainstem-mediated reflex pathway. We use the San Diego Instruments SR Apparatus for these tests.
We also test for pre-pulse inhibition (PPI), a well-established measure for testing sensorimotor gating. PPI is abnormal in several human disorders, such as schizophrenia and major depression. ASR and PPI test methods and responses are nearly identical in humans and rodents, offering homologous comparisons across species.
This test can be modified to fit a PI’s specific needs. Typically, the test involves familiarizing the test animal with a test chamber, and then observing changes to the animal’s behavior after it is injected with one of a variety of drug challenges. We typically test animals using indirect dopaminergic agonists, specific dopamine D1 and D2 agonists and antagonists, cholinergic-muscarinic antagonists and glutamatergic-NMDA receptor antagonists. We also have experience using a variety of other agents for this test.
This uses a labyrinthine maze with ten T-shaped cul-de-sacs branching from a central and circuitous channel leading from the start to the goal. The test is conducted in complete darkness (monitored with an infrared light emitter and camera) to eliminate distal cues, thus testing the animal’s “sense of direction” or ability to navigate using internal, route-based egocentric cues of self-movement (speed and direction).
We record latency to find the escape and errors of commission (entry into blind alleys). Recent studies we have conducted on this test demonstrate that it depends on neostriatal dopamine but not prefrontal cortex dopamine. The test also is affected by dopamine in the nucleus accumbens but these are accompanied by changes in swimming performance in addition to learning per se and appear to arise from an interaction of motivation and associative factors.
These tests use elevated plus (EPM) or elevated zero (EZP) mazes to test anxiety-like behavior. The mazes are similar, with two open and two closed arms or quadrants (closed sections have high, black acrylic walls). Animals are tested for five minutes, and the time spent in the open areas provides the principal index of anxiety. These tests are video tracked and computer scored using AnyMaze software from Stoelting Instruments.
The Forced Swim Test (FST) is a well-known test for assessing stress responses including HPA axis markers such as ACTH, corticosterone, and others. It also serves as a test of depression (the Persolt test of swimming despair). The Persolt test evaluates swimming immobility after a training session in which the animal is placed in a cylinder half-filled with water.
Passive avoidance uses the two-sided Gemini apparatus from San Diego Instruments. For this test, one side is lighted and the other side dark with a door in between. The animal is placed in the lighted side for a period of time, then the door is opened, and the animal is timed for how long it takes them to cross to the dark side. Once they cross to the dark side, the door is closed and they are given a moderate, short, fixed-duration foot shock. They are then removed and tested for retention at different intervals after the first trial to see how long it takes them the second time to reenter the dark compartment. In some procedures trials are repeated until they learn to remain on the lighted side for 3 min whereas in 1-trial passive avoidance they are given only one training trail and retention is tested at some predetermined interval later to see how well they made the dark-shock association. This test will show deficits in animals with hippocampal lesions if the lesion is of sufficient severity.
This test evaluates the time it takes the test animal to move from light to dark areas in a divided test chamber, and dwell time between the two chambers. The test uses our photocell-equipped locomotor activity test chambers.
This is the most widely used test for measuring spatial navigation and reference memory. The test animal is placed in an open, circular pool in which there is a submerged platform. A series of tests can measure a variety of memory and navigation tasks, as the test animal swims to the platform from various locations, or tries to find the platform after it has been removed. Tests are video-tracked using AnyMaze, and analysis can provide information on the test animal’s hippocampus-dependent reference memory and prefrontal cortex working memory.
This test uses the animal’s reaction to a novel object as an avenue to evaluate dorsal hippocampal function. The animal is familiarized with two or more objects, and then is placed in a test space with one of the familiar objects changed to a novel object. We measure time spent exploring the novel object, that if sufficiently preferred by the animal is a reflection of intact memory for the original objects.
This test places a grid of foreign objects (marbles) in a standard cage filled with bedding (measured to a standard depth). Animals are tested for 30 minutes, and the number of objects buried is recorded. This is a test of defensive anxiety.
The test measures immobility in the animal by suspending it by the tail using an acrylic plate with a hole for the tail to pass through. Once the animal determines that escape is impossible, it stops struggling. This test can show the effect of antidepressants and sedatives on the animal, and is often used to provide converging evidence for results from Forced Swim Testing (FST). Animals are suspended for single trials of no more than six minutes, and the time spent immobile is manually recorded. This test is available only for use with mice.
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